January 2010

Elizabeth Brown

Three Months of Marketing | Elizabeth Kraus


New Comfort-Marketing Mandate

Despite both government and media telling us “the recession is over” for many months, odds are that your business is not feeling a significant “recovery” yet.

The truth is that while the conditions of recession may be over, the impacts of the recession are still making impact, and will be for some time to come.

Jobs are still being lost, consumers are still cutting back on spending, and financial institutions are still tightening conditions for lending. No matter how fast recovery does or does not occur, many of the changes that have occurred on the consumer landscape are here for the long term.

One aspect of consumer behavior that has changed is good news for local retail and service providers: consumers are more concerned with the local economy and the impact of how their expenditures support local jobs.

With the prospect (or reality) of job loss ever-present in today’s economy, reductions in income and resultant impacts to lifestyle – and very real fears about the ability to support family and meet financial obligations, there is a comfort-hungry customer near you.

Last year, smart advertisers shifted marketing toward more comfort, tradition-based and personal indulgence messages. As expected, sales of comfort and indulgence items such as moderate and low cost wines and chocolates have not only held but have gained ground. And consumers have grown more aware of how – and where – they are spending their dollars.

Possibly as a reflection of the need to be more connected to friends and family, social networking sites such as Facebook have grown exponentially. People are more plugged in than ever before; not only to news and information, but to events and online resources that give them an outlet to share their experiences and hear about the experiences of others who are experiencing similar joys or sorrows.

This is good news for the small, independent business that provides “comfort” in the form of products or services, social connections, local jobs and that gives back to the community with support for local charities and by putting dollars back into the local economy.

For 2010, gear your marketing messages and plan to support these new realities. Provide strong messaging to your customers and in outreach to potential clients about how your products and services provide a moment of comfort or personal indulgence. A scalp and neck massage at the shampoo bowl might take five minutes, but creates a moment of comfort and indulgence for your client they will not receive anywhere else.

A deep, aromatherapy-based conditioning treatment leaves the client’s hair silky smooth and smelling great. Perhaps a paraffin dip for the hands; there is a long list of low-cost services or products that you can choose to provide to customers to keep them coming back more often, or that you can use to entice new customers into the salon or spa.

This is the perfect time for you to join (or start) a buy-local campaign in your neighborhood or city. The majority of dollars spent at national chain or big box stores leave a community; the majority of dollars spent at local, independent businesses, stay within the community. When consumers are educated about how their expenditures impact local jobs and the local economy, they change spending behavior.

There are non-profit “Buy Local” campaign organizations that can provide your community with a host of resources including consumer-education materials to create this awareness within your community. In addition, when you take leadership in your community you will promote your business to other local civic groups and businesses in an organic way, raising the status and reputation of your business within your community. Join and become involved in your local Merchant, Business Park, Chamber of Commerce or Rotary organization. Reach out to other businesses that are in your physical proximity, or who serve clients with the same demographic characteristics of your ideal clients.

Even if you do not yet have a website or any web building skills, you can easily create a Facebook page (or other social website option) where you can promote your business to the local community and reach out to your clients with special offers. You can use this site to demonstrate your salon’s commitment to the community in charitable endeavors, show off the work of stylists in pictures, give tips to clients for seasonal looks or healthier hair and skin and speak to human interest stories of staff or clients – all in a way that your clients (or prospects) can connect to in a social and emotional way, rather than just giving a sales pitch.

Be present in your community, provide comfort and indulgences to your clients and use this aspect of the products and services you provide to reach out to new clients.

Elizabeth Kraus is the founder of Be InPulse Marketing and Design in Auburn, Washington and the author of 12 Months of Marketing for Salon and Spa. Email the author at elizabeth@12monthsofmarketing.net.